Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why the first snow matters

The first snow. Dry and powdery, wet and heavy, sparkling, dirty. Nothing is the same now, not for another few months.

You're a New Englander, or a New Yorker. For you, the first snow may be banal, or exciting, depending on many variables: your penchant for romanticism (that first touch of white is an epiphany, a signal of transformation), your love of nature (seasonal transitions are times of sensual pleasure), or your occupation (postal carriers may heave a general sigh).

It may come early, in October, or puzzlingly late, in December. It may color the holidays with pixie dust or rent them asunder by making travel dangerous. It may coax you to buy winter sports equipment, or invest in a Pendleton wool coat, or make you yearn for sandy beaches. Snowfall at night can be magic, or terrifying. It can quicken your steps as you walk through falling flakes towards a fire-lit room or twinkling nightclub. It can slow the wheels of the car as you drive into flickering walls of white, wondering if you're seeing what you're seeing. It reddens your cheeks and whitens your hair.

The first snow makes beer colder, apple pie spicier, lovemaking tenderer, walking to work more memorable. The first snow lets us know we're in for a few weeks of Nature's impulsive and naughty tricks. The first snow makes us feel wrapped in warmth and ancient human fear. The first snow is inevitable. And when at last the time comes when we know we've seen the last of it until winter returns, we face the yellow sun with relief, and perhaps a bit of sad regret. Now, we say, now will live outdoors. But we might have done so before, wrapped in cloaks, clutching pots of embers, bellies full from autumn feasts.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

In other blogging news...

I am now the "Boston Nutrition Examiner" at Examiner.com. It's actually shocking how many categories of examiner they have on topics that, to me, seem to be really closely related. I mean, they also have one on "food and drink" and one on "organic food" and one on "food culture." I mean, can not all these be covered by the same person? Oh well, at least I have the green light to cover green living, too.

Anyway, I have just started out but hope to turn this into a lucrative (as I am told blogging can be, potentially) and fun thing, so please to be reading, sharing and subscribing to me! And thanks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to Flirt with Survivalism

I am finding this topic intriguing these days. Today's Msn.com headline offers the context of the current economic crisis for the reason all sorts of people are looking for ways to squirrel away necessities for the coming...troubles. But obviously some people have gone well beyond flirtation to courtship and flat-out marriage proposals.

What we pagans like to call "homesteading" is starting to become one aspect of survivalism. The notion that survivalists are all gun-crazy bullet hoarders who are stockpiling antibiotics, freeze-dried eggs and bottled water has given way to the idea that some of us who find that kind of stereotype disturbing are actually engaged in the same kind of preparations, albeit with less emphasis on guns and more on food storage. The antibiotics might translate as a colloidal silver making machine (built from an inexpensive kit), the freeze-dried eggs become canned tomato sauce from our gardens and dried beans and lentils, and the bottled water replaced by a water filtration system.

Nowadays it's not about waiting for Armageddon; it's wondering if the looming shortages of everything from petroleum to coal to food, not to mention the possible freezing of the banking system, may start to directly affect our ability to procure food, medical care and other basic needs. So liberals as well as conservatives are united in wanting to make sure there is enough food on hand for their families and maybe some neighbors in need. I like how the article acknowledges the different approaches to survivalism that people with differing socio-political attitudes might embrace. It also mentions something which I had suspected was happening but that other articles on survivalism had not mentioned: people are starting to hoard gold and silver as eagerly as canned beans and propane.

Those of us who live in the Northeast have been told for many years we need to keep a few days (if not weeks) worth of food in our homes in case of severe winter weather. Of course the majority of people don't bother, due to lack of space or money, or simply not thinking it's necessary. I for one don't really buy that worldwide food shortages are imminent, but there is no denying that more and more people are interested in growing and storing their own food. I have not seen this level of home-based agriculture and canning since I was a kid. People used to do it to save money, and of course there is that impetus now, too. But it's also about preparedness, the notion that there may come a day, and not too far off, where, for one reason or another, we won't be able to just head to the grocery store or phone for a pizza, and having some non-perishable food on hand will be not just comforting but mandatory.

Ever seen the wonderful and hilarious French film "Delicatessen"? It's based on a "Soylent Green" principle but with the addition of an underground (literally) band of seed hoarding vegetarian mercenaries. The notion of a food shortage in food-obsessed France was, at that time, nasty futuristic fun. But now?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apple Picking

We had a very successful day at Indian Ladders yesterday. The place was packed with other like-minded people; who doesn't want to go pick apples on a sunny beautiful fall day? Unlike last year's adventure, when dwindling supplies of apples made people crabby, there were plenty of ripe apples practically falling from the trees. We filled a bushel bag in about five minutes with gorgeous Empires and Jonagolds. I had wanted to get some Golden Delicious but we didn't have any more room. I hope to go back and pick again maybe later in the season. We also found a handful of huge Red Delicious apples someone had dropped on the way back to the car and I grabbed a couple of those, too. I normally dislike this variety since its supermarket version is alway bland and mealy. But I've had fresh, fragrant crunchy ones fresh from an orchard when I was a kid, so I knew these would be worth a try.

The fall foliage color was simply stunning. The orchards lie at the base of the Helderbergs, and a more picture perfect fall day could not have been ordered. We watched for houses for sale in the area, and there are quite a few. But an unsettling number of McCain/Palin signs in peoples' yards; WTF? At least compared to Obama/Biden signs. Then again most people do not have signs in their yards so who knows what their leanings are?

Now--What to do with all these apples? I still have tons of apples from Brushwood (not as ripe and lovely as these, but all organic!), and now another bushel. I have been storing them on the front porch, but with the weather getting so warm I hope they don't get soft. Maybe I will put them in the basement. I am not much of an applesauce or apple butter person. I'll definitely make some apple crisp. I have been looking into apple wine making and definitely want to give this a go. I still need to get a few bits of equipment: an air lock, a corking machine, and probably a big glass carboy. And the wine yeast.

We also stood in line to get fresh cider doughnuts. Yum. Worth the wait. I had three in the car, warm and soft and covered with sugar. I also bought some whole wheat pancake mix and a jar of red raspberry preserves. The farm also had Pick Your Own raspberries yesterday but when I asked about them the lady behind the counter said there might not be many left so late in the day. Must plan for this next year, and call ahead and get there early.

I enjoy seeing so many people enjoying this yearly ritual. The kids love running around and playing in the orchards. People can;t wait to open their jugs of cider and swig from them standing in the sunshine. There are Clydesdale horses pulling a wagon, and hayrides and a petting zoo, plus people picnicking or just sitting on the ground amid the orchards. I don't like seeing so many apples with single bites taken out of them and discarded on the ground, but amid such bounty I guess people think nature is an endless fount of abundance. Yesterday, this seemed very true. Here's to a beautiful harvest season.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Gardening Day

I must have gardened for about seven hours today! First I worked at Emack & Bolio's for over 3 hours. I dug out a bunch of those horrible invasive daylilies (the ubiquitous ones that grow like crazy everywhere). I then planted some tulips (red and yellow,not my color choice for sure) and daffodils, and 3 red lilies. Then I created a shade garden bed with some lovely old bricks they had lying around. The bricks were huge and had words on them like "Catskill" and "Tidewater." I dug out all the grass in the oval garden bed, then added three bags of compost-y topsoil. I planted daffodils, forget-me-nots and some hostas, plus one astilbe and some ferns. The owner Amy and I talked about what to do for the side of the building, which really just needs all the old shrubs removed. I decided to just plant some tulips to spruce it up for spring and then maybe the area will get an overhaul next year. I filled two big lawn bags of debris. I rewarded myself with a well-deserved ice cream cone: a scoop each of peach and pumpkin; yum-o-rama.

Then I came home and planted the rest of my daffodils. The usual: digging out roots before planting. Sometimes I hate my yard and all the damn weedy roots that grow everywhere. I also planted some bi-color grape hyacinths and some drumstick alliums.

I look forward to planting my tulips and getting some more to complement the purple ones I already bought. I'm trying not to spend much on them. I have a budget to buy plants and bulbs for Emack's and also a client in Boston, and if I get large amounts of them I can grab a few for myself. I will probably get this collection and it will be enough to plant everywhere I need to plant things...or maybe this one although Amy does not want any pink flowers at Emack's. Maybe these? But I sure don't need 100 crocus bulbs. Of course what I really want is this one but it's kind of pricey and I don't need all those daffodils.

Maybe I should just get tulips by type. Like 50 of these, and 50 of these and 50 of these and 50 of--well there goes my budget! This collection here is a good deal: 300 tulips for $95. And it has all the colors I need to please everyone, including some for me.

Any thoughts? Help me decide!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008